Phantoms goalie dominates in net
as Youngstown beats Fighting Saints
By Tom Williams
A year ago, goaltender Sean Romeo was dazzling in his second full season with the Youngstown Phantoms. With 31 regular-season wins, he broke Matt O’Conner’s record of 28.
Romeo set another record when he won five more in the postseason as the Phantoms came within one victory of playing for the USHL championship.
The Cary, N.C., native was hoping for a monster season for his USHL farewell. But a nagging groin injury suffered in training camp turned Romeo’s 2013-14 campaign into a nightmare.
In October, Romeo re-aggravated the injury. By the time he returned in mid-December, the Phantoms were six games below .500 and they never got rolling.
But on the opening night of his final weekend as a Phantom, Romeo dominated like it was spring 2013. Against the defending champion Dubuque Fighting Saints, Romeo stopped 38 shots in the Phantoms’ 3-1 victory Friday night at the Covelli Centre.
“We have a great group of guys here and to share this with them was awesome,” Romeo said.
Seventeen shots were launched at him in the first period.
“I had a little more than I could ask for,” said Romeo who will begin classes in July at the University of Maine. “But the team made it easy for me. I saw everything and they had a lot of shots from out far.
“It wasn’t as bad as it looked on the scoreboard.”
Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen disagreed.
“He won us the game in the first period,” Noreen said. “They came out with a ton of energy and threw everything at us in the first.
“He weathered that storm for us, he made some big saves,” Noreen said. “In the second period, I thought the whole team came around.”
The Saints’ loss means they’ll finish third in the Eastern Conference and open the playoffs at second-seeded Cedar Rapids.
Defenseman Kyle Mackey described the victory as “definitely big for Sean. He had a rough start to the season with the injury but he battled back.”
Mackey, one of the seven Phantoms in Friday’s game who played in last year’s Eastern Conference Final against Dubuque, said, “It’s definitely [a bonus] as a defenseman knowing you’ve got somebody back there that if you get beat, he’s going to be a wall back there.”
Late in the first period, Phantoms defenseman Steven Ruggiero drove hard to the net and beat Fighting Saints starting goaltender Kevin Reich for his first goal. Kyle Connor and J.J. Piccinich assisted.
The Fighting Saints again stormed the ice to start the second period, firing four more shots at Romeo in the first two minutes.
Ninety seconds later, the Phantoms led 2-0 when Josh Melnick slipped the puck to Zach Evancho at the side of the net. He snapped it into the corner, prompting Dubuque head coach Matt Shaw to replace Reich with Benjamin Johansson.
Midway through the second period, Connor scored on an assist from Piccinich for a 3-0 advantage.
Midway through the third period, karson Kuhlman foiled Romeo’s shutout bid on the Saints’ 35th shot.
Tonight’s game against the Sioux City Musketeers will be Romeo’s final one in three-and-a-half seasons. No one has dressed for more Phantoms games.
“I’m sure after the game I will be a little sad, but right now I’m just focusing on getting the two points,” Romeo said.
“It will be weird not coming back to the Covelli Centre on Friday and Saturday nights. It’s bittersweet, but I’m ready to move on to the next level.
”But I’ll definitely miss being a Phantom.”